Michael Bergeron
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Mississippi Grind

Mississippi Grind
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Have you ever bet on something with a degree of absolute randomness? Like, say, the decision to stay at a bar based on whether the next guy that walks out of the bathroom is wearing glasses.

Leon casino, At what point does placing bets merge with a form of gambling addiction? Mississippi Grind examines the personalities of a couple of guys who will risk everything they own for the thrill of the win.

You couldn’t ask for a better pair of actors to portray the kind of behavioral compulsion on display than Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn. Sienna Miller, Alfre Woodward, Analeigh Tipton co-star. James Toback, a writer/director whose script for the 1974 movie The Gambler (remade last year with Mark Wahlberg), which is a kind of template for this genre of movie, pops up in a humorous cameo playing a character named Tony Roundtree. Other gambling themed films would include Altman’s California Split (1974), and Rounders (1998).MSG


Reynolds and Mendelsohn meet cute at an Idaho casino. They take their game on the road determined to gamble at every casino and private game from Middle America to New Orleans. Along the way they hustle strangers, meet old girl friends, lose everything and not surprisingly hit it big on a lucky winning streak. Even as they get to NOLA, and sell their car to finance their quixotic mission, the game has just begun.

The acting on display brims with narcissism as well as self-deceit. Mendelsohn in particular shines when he plays a loathsome creature. Mississippi Grind opens in theaters this weekend.

— Michael Bergeron